Report: drugs often too expensive in germany

Report: drugs often too expensive in germany

Additional savings would be at the expense of the pharmaceutical industry alone, not the patients. Last year, drug spending by public health insurers fell for the first time since 2004 – but since then, spending has been climbing sharply again.

Despite the coalition’s latest drug reform, doctors continue to prescribe rows and rows of new expensive drugs with no additional benefit, criticized the drug commission of the german medical profession. The reason, he said, is the effective marketing of the pharmaceutical industry through paid training, brochures and advice to physicians.

"We are not in a position to counter very massive marketing strategies," said commission chairman wolf-dieter ludwig. The strong growth in new painkillers (opioids), for example, is a sign of "how doctors are being misled. The standard drug morphine helps just as well.

Last year, for the first time since 2004, the statutory health insurance funds had to spend less on drugs. The report refers to data from the ministry of health: drug spending fell by 1.17 billion to 30.87 billion euros in 2011. But in the first half of the year, they already climbed again by 480 million to 15.8 billion euros.

According to report editor dieter paffrath, the latest decline is only due to a temporary cost brake through discounts and price freezes. 3.1 billion euros could be saved if physicians prescribed more favorable generics and dispensed with expensive and controversial drugs with patent protection.

Editor ulrich schwabe pointed out that many drugs in germany are significantly more expensive than in the netherlands, for example. Even 7.8 billion euros could be saved, if the prices of the neighboring country were used as a basis. The government’s latest drug reform should save about 2 billion euros in the long term in this country.

Schwabe warned: "if the targeted savings are to be achieved, our capacity for benefit assessment certainly had to be increased."According to the reform, health care officials are now evaluating new drugs for their added value to patients. According to this result, the health insurance companies negotiate a price with the manufacturer – but the many blockbusters, the drugs with huge sales, which have been on the market for a long time, have not yet been included in the tests.

"We still have 99 percent uncovered," warned AOK board member uwe deh. Schwabe warned that the statutory price brakes, which helped to keep spending under control, would expire by the end of next year. Experts are doubtful as to whether products with patent protection that have been on the market for a long time will be subject to the new tests.

The chief executive of the pharmaceutical association vfa, birgit fischer, accused the report of methodological shortcomings and criticized: "a permanent discussion about printing prices threatens (…) eventually become a discussion about printing the quality of care."


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